A special moment for their biggest fan

Spend any time at a Cadillac High School hockey or baseball game in the last year and you may not know who he is but you've certainly heard him.

You'd have to be hearing impaired not to.

Calvin Sipe is the one cheering on the Vikings at the top of his well-developed lungs, whether it's along the glass in hockey or from the dugout in baseball.

He's become a special part of an upstart Cadillac baseball team that hosts Petoskey in an MHSAA Division 2 regional semifinal contest today at Mills Field. Game time is 5 p.m.

Sipe, a person with disabilities, has been around the team most of the season after connecting with coach Josh Lincoln at a hockey game last winter.

"Baseball is my favorite sport," Sipe said. "I've loved to play it since I was young. Coach Lincoln wants me to be a part of the team because I never got to play through my high school years.

"I go out, practice with them and help them out when they need it. It gives me something fun to do."

Sipe, who completed a vocational education program through Cadillac High School in 2015 and currently works at the school, loves the interaction.

"They treat me like a part of the team," Sipe said. "I enjoy watching the games and I like cheering them on.

"I graduated from here and I work here. This is my school."

Sipe found himself in a special spot on Saturday — the pitcher's mound.

Lincoln had been trying to come up with something to make Sipe feel even more a part of the team when he and assistant coach James Netzley came up with the idea of having Sipe throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Lincoln wanted it to be special and that was contingent on the Vikings winning.

"I wanted the game to really mean something and I wanted it to be a surprise," Lincoln said. "When I talked to him about coming to districts, he told he'd be there but he'd be late.

"I wanted it to be in the district finals but that meant we had to win the district semifinal. We got him a baseball signed by the whole team and so when he got here, I told him you're throwing out the first pitch. The look on his face was quizzical, excitement and fear all at once. I told him he'd be fine. He plays catch with Coach Knapp all the time."

Cadillac took care of its part, rallying to beat Ogemaw Heights 8-4 in a D2 district semifinal and Sipe got his mound appearance before the title game against Ludington.

"It felt a little weird because I had never pitched before," Sipe said. "I've been watching them practice. I was interesting to me."

Sipe had no problems getting the ball to Viking senior catcher Alex Netzley in front of cheering fans and coaches and players from both teams.

"The kid loves baseball so much and it just broke my heart that he'd never played in a baseball game before and probably never would," Lincoln said. "He throws out that first pitch and it's the only time I've ever cried on a baseball field because it meant so much to me.

"When we won, he put his arm around me and said thanks coach, thank you so much. Yeah, we had just won a district title but I all could think about was that he was happy. That made me very happy."

Sipe is the one front and center of the team's district championship picture holding the trophy.

He plans to be back with the team next year, too.

Lincoln said it's been great for everyone involved.

"I had spoken to (Calvin) a number of times at hockey games and when he found out I was the baseball coach, he talked to me about his love of baseball and how he had always wanted to play but didn't," Lincoln said. "I made it my mission to get him involved with the team.

"He's probably the best cheerer the hockey team has so I told him he was welcome in our dugout and to be a part of our team.

"The only thing I told is you can't cheer as loud (as hockey) because you'll get me kicked out of the game. He's our best cheer leader and he loves it. He's always got a huge smile on his face.

"The kids are great, too. They all know him from school and they've been very welcoming and responsive to him."

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